WEB.COM TOUR INSIDER
Raza trades embroidery for Q-School pursuit
October 24, 2018
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Sulman Raza helped lead the University of Oregon to the 2016 NCAA Championship title. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Although Sulman Raza is adopted, he’s now an Oregonian through-and-through. He even has a position on the statewide donut debate: Blue Star vs. Voodoo.
“I feel like Voodoo is better quality for some reason, or maybe some better options. I’m not sure. But I try to stay away from donuts,” he says with a laugh. “When I was in Eugene, I lived just a few minutes from Krispy Kreme and I would go there a ton of times. I needed to shut that down.”
Raza earned a spot in the Second Stage of Web.com Tour Q-School after finishing T20 at his First Stage site in San Diego. He has come a long way from enjoying a clandestine pastry while at the University of Oregon.
He graduated in 2017 – majoring in French, with a minor in landscape architecture – but at 24, he wasn’t sure he wanted to even play golf for a living, despite leading the Ducks to the 2016 NCAA Championship, on their home course, no less.
He sunk the winning putt and was mobbed by his teammates.
“I saw everybody charging at me and thought, ‘This could be really bad,’” he recalls with a smile. “That’s a moment you’ll never forget. It was awesome.”
That euphoria didn’t translate into immediate success for Raza after his collegiate career wrapped up, although he helped lead the Oregon squad back to the NCAA Championship the following year (the team succumbed to No. 2-ranked Oklahoma in the final).
Raza says he wasn’t motivated to play or practice once school finished, since his whole life had been wrapped in golf. He was worn out, playing just a handful of amateur tournaments after graduating.
“I was tired of doing the same thing over and over,” he says. “I didn’t enjoy competing and grinding every single day. I was lazy. I didn’t have a set schedule.”Sulman Raza finished T37 at the PGA TOUR's Barracuda Championship this past summer. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
He instead joined Portland-based Jones Sports Company as an embroidery specialist for its iconic leather bags, with an eye on moving to sales.
He was subjected to a 9-to-5 for the first time in his life, and says when he starting working, he gained an appreciation for carving out time to practice. His bosses at Jones – former high-level players Matt Lemman and Chris Carnahan – encouraged him to have fun while playing again, too. He no longer felt burdened by the weight of expectation.
He was also inspired by the success of fellow Oregon Duck and Web.com Tour winner Aaron Wise. Raza began to take golf more seriously again in 2018, but with a renewed sense of excitement and joy.
He says that watching Wise – who won the 2018 AT&T Byron Nelson and was the lone rookie to make the TOUR Championship field – has motivated him.
“He’s someone I look up to and admire for what he does, how he’s progressed, and what he’s achieved in such a quick period of time,” he says. “I tell myself, ‘Why can’t I do that?’”
Raza says his bosses have also been instrumental in encouraging him to focus on his dreams. Carnahan, who played at Oregon in the late 1990s, told him he shouldn’t waste his talent, and that he’d sense regret if he looked back in five years wondering ‘What if?’
Raza ended up qualifying for this year’s U.S. Open. He missed the cut, but says it was an experience he’ll never forget.
“I was pretty disappointed I didn’t make the cut, but when your first TOUR event is competing at one of the biggest tournaments in golf … you learn a lot,” he says.
Funny enough, while Raza was at work just prior to his sectional qualifier, he thought he had lost his chance to even try to get into the field, let alone play the tournament itself.
Raza sliced his leg on a pallet he was trying to load into a truck, forcing a trip to the hospital. Eight staples later, the wound was zipped up.
He finished third at the qualifier and says his injury ended up reducing the pressure at Shinnecock Hills, to a point.
“I knew my game was good, but if I didn’t play well because of the pain, that was understandable,” he says. “But then you think about Tiger (Woods) who played on basically a broken knee, and there were no excuses.”
And he’s left with a very ‘on-brand’ scar on his leg.
“I have one that kind of looks like a Nike swoosh,” he says. Apropos, since Nike was founded in nearby Beaverton, Oregon.I was tired of doing the same thing over and over. I didn't enjoy competing and grinding every single day.
Inside the ropes at the U.S. Open, he says, he learned that even some of the best in the world don’t hit perfect shots every time – despite what he’s seen on television – and that made him loosen up.
He made the cut at his second TOUR appearance, the 2018 Barracuda Championship.
“I saw some pretty bad shots,” he says. “They’re human too … they’re not supermen out there.”
It seems, however, Raza has been surrounded by a collection of super men (and women) his whole life.
His mom has worked at the University of Oregon for upwards of 30 years and Raza says she taught him a lot about how to be disciplined, and to always give it his best no matter what happens (aside from the morning after the 2016 NCAA Championship, when she made mention on Golf Channel that he had to go to a French class the next day. He didn’t.)
His father is from Pakistan and played professional cricket before coming to America and opening a sporting goods store in Eugene. Raza says he got his competitive side from his father.
“They’ve both taught me good values in life,” he says.
Despite his supportive parents and equally supportive bosses, Raza knows golf is the most individualistic of games. In order to climb the Web.com Tour ladder, and make it on his own, he’ll need to effectively harness his unique skill set.
One thing is for sure, though. He’s having a lot more fun doing it.
“I want to make a living out of it, but at the end of the day, it’s just a game and not life-or-death,” he says. “No one is going to judge your character or who you are as a person because of your results.”